A hospital and a group of GPs in Dorset have run a successful trial of electronic discharge summaries for patients, NHS Digital has reported.
It said this should pave the way for hospitals across England to use the summaries, which should save on time and administration costs, in the near future.
Dorset County Hospital carried out the trail of a first of type with four volunteer GP practices, NHS Digital and health technology companies TPP and Independent Systems Integrators.
It was able to send over 4,000 structured messages including outpatient letters, emergency care and inpatient discharge summaries through the Message Exchange for Social Care and Health (MESH) file transfer service using the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard. MESH enables hospitals to send much larger files than through email.
NHS Digital said this makes it possible to send information – on issues such as medication and onward referrals – straight into GP systems rather than requiring it to be copied from patient discharge letters. The system also makes it possible to send messages containing standardised coded clinical terminology, such as SNOMED-CT and dm+d, notifies hospitals when messages have been delivered and actioned.
Andrew Meyer, director of platforms at NHS Digital, said: “Improving transfers of care between hospitals and GP practices is a vitally important step to enhance patient care across different health and care settings.
“We have come a long way from the early days of sending discharge information through the post, fax and even email to now providing a standardised and reliable service.
“Hospital staff can be reassured that the messages they send to GP practices have been delivered, read and acted upon, without the need to follow up with telephone calls.
“Interoperability between different systems is key to reaching this target and we aim to work with other trusts and GP suppliers to ensure that all GP computer systems can send and receive transfer of care messages in the near future.”
Waleed Al-Hussaini, founder of Independent Systems Integrators, highlighted the capability of the system to take content from Word and Rich Text documents to construct FHIR messages for outpatient letters.
NHS Digital has not said when the system should go into wider use, but did say it is now working with mental health trusts to develop a first of type for inpatient discharge notices.
Image by Daniel Sone, public domain via Wikimedia Commons